State Reversals of Common Core Pick Up Momentum

Annie TeichAs Betsy Corcoran noted in EdSurge recently, it’s a year since Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) called for a moratorium on any high-stakes consequences from Common Core tests. Representing the interests of her members, Weingarten expressed a desire for caution as the country transitioned to the more rigorous standards. Over the last year, many other voices have joined the AFT’s in concern about the fairness of tying teacher evaluations and paychecks to test outcomes in the first year or two of the implementation.

The politicization of the Common Core has resulted in misrepresentation of the standards as a federally imposed national curriculum. Just last month, both Oklahoma and South Carolina have voted to repeal the new standards even after teachers have been using them to teach. North Carolina adopted the standards in 2010 and now both houses of the Republican-led legislature have passed bills to repeal the standards and it is likely to reach the governor’s desk sometime this summer.

At least in North Carolina where I live, those in favor of the Common Core come from across the spectrum: educators, parents, and the business community all support tougher, internationally benchmarked standards. So, it’s not really a Democrat-Republican issue. There are members of both parties on either side of the question.

It is widely accepted that the Common Core would not have happened without Bill and Melinda Gates and their foundation. However, after being accused of strong-arming the standards into place, Gates explained in an interview with The Washington Post, “I believe in the Common Core because of its substance and what it will do to improve education.” He deflected criticism about funding the development of the standards with strings attached. In fact, the Gates Foundation gave more than $200 million to groups as diverse as the AFT union and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to work together with state level educators to design the standards.

Since the decision to adopt the Core standards was made primarily by state departments of education, and is supported by teachers actually using the standards, we find ourselves in a situation where politicians and elected officials without educational backgrounds are making decisions about what students should learn and teachers should teach. After three years of planning and making the transition to tougher standards, schools and teachers are left not knowing what to expect or how to plan for the upcoming year. I spoke with a teacher in South Carolina this week who described the situation in her district as “just crazy.”

It is ironic that many parents decry the state of U.S. public education, but “not at my child’s school.” Multiple surveys over the years have revealed that when speaking about the general state of U.S. public education, parents recognize the challenges that schools, teachers and students face. But these same parents defend their own children’s schools and teachers as different and better.

Will North Carolina be the last state to reconsider its adoption of the Common Core? Unlikely. There is a political windstorm whipping up against the Common Core from people who proclaim the states rights over federal mandates. While a federal mandate is an inaccurate description, federal funding was attached to adoption and implementation of the standards to speed them along. The opposition is now creating a lot of noise and it will likely result in more states reconsidering their commitment to the Common Core.

What I think will happen eventually is that states who are publicly and legislatively stepping back from the standards will likely adopt similar standards but change their name. It’s hard to argue against the push for higher standards when we consider that 40% of college freshmen need remedial classes and 60% of our students will work in careers that haven’t been created yet. Our economy depends on our ability to develop skilled and curious lifelong learners who can compete globally.

Since all of us depend on a healthy K-12 industry, tell us what you think will happen during this time of dynamic change? How is this fallback affecting your company? Please leave a comment below and share your opinion with us.